© Crown copyright 2021
This publication is licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0 except where otherwise stated. To view this licence, visit nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3 or write to the Information Policy Team, The National Archives, Kew, London TW9 4DU, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where we have identified any third party copyright information you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders concerned.
This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses
This guidance should be read alongside students returning to, and starting, higher education for spring term 2021.
This guidance applies to England, but you should follow any wider restrictions if they are in place.
This guidance is designed to help higher education (HE) providers in England minimise risk during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and to provide students with an enjoyable experience, while staying as safe as possible.
We expect you to remain open while following any wider restrictions and public health guidelines that are in place to ensure you minimise the risks to students and staff.
Guidance setting out expectations for providers in maintaining quality and standards is available from the Office for Students (OfS), the HE regulator in England.
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has a series of resources to support providers.
Providers should make sure that continuing and prospective students receive clear, accurate and timely information to make informed decisions about their academic future. It is important that obligations under consumer protection law continue to be met, including in relation to information provision, terms and conditions, and complaints handling.
How to use this guidance
As HE providers, you will make your own judgements about your provision, while following the latest public health guidance. However, you should also work alongside local authorities and other agencies to put appropriate plans in place to control and manage any local outbreaks.
You need to plan the specific actions you will take, depending on the demographic profile of your staff and student bodies, the nature of your institution, including the size and type of institution, and how the institution is organised and operated.
Your plans should set out clearly what steps you have taken to reduce risks to students and staff in their working or student environment, in accordance with government guidance.
To help you decide which actions to take, you should carry out an appropriate coronavirus (COVID-19) risk assessment, just as you would for other health and safety-related hazards. The Health and Safety Executive has a helpful risk assessment template and examples.
You should have a plan in place to respond to an increase in the number of cases, or an outbreak associated with your setting, when you may have to adapt elements of your provision at very short notice.
Plans should cover scenarios including:
- increased prevalence of infection locally that requires interventions in the whole community, including students and staff
- a large-scale outbreak that may impact on the activities of the university
- a localised outbreak in student accommodation
- a localised outbreak involving a particular student or staff member, faculty or department
You should work with the Director of Public Health in your local authority to control and manage any outbreak. You should agree outbreak plans with your Director of Public Health and share your plan with the Department for Education (DfE).
Higher education tiers of restriction
In certain instances, decision-making may be referred to the national level, and an area may be designated as an area of intervention. The government’s Local Action Committee command structure may recommend some level of restriction to HE provision in such areas. In such a situation, restrictions will be implemented in a phased manner with the key aim to retain face-to-face provision where it is safe to do so.
Regardless of the HE tier of restriction, all providers, students and staff should comply with guidance issued on wider restrictions. The National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP) issues and updates guidance on how any additional restrictions apply to students moving between university and home.
Unless told otherwise, in the event of national restrictions during the term, students should remain in their current accommodation. If they have not returned to their term-time accommodation, they should do so if their provider has advised them to or under exceptional circumstances as outlined in students returning to, and starting, higher education in spring term 2021.
Explanation of the HE tiers
HE tier 1 (default position)
HE providers should combine blended learning with face-to-face tuition while following the requirements of this guidance, and public health guidance (for example, the appropriate use of face coverings).
HE tier 2 (fallback position)
HE providers should move to an increased level of online learning where possible. You should prioritise the continuation of face-to-face provision based on your own risk assessment. We expect that, in the majority of cases, this will be for those courses where it is most beneficial (for example, clinical or practical learning and research).
HE tier 3 (where stricter measures are needed)
HE providers should increase the level of online learning and only retain face-to-face provision for priority courses (for example, clinical and medical courses), and in as limited a number of situations as possible.
Students should follow government guidance published as part of any national restrictions, including remaining in their current accommodation and not returning to their family home or other residential accommodation. This is to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus through travel. In these circumstances, you should support students who remain by keeping services for students open, such as university libraries and catering facilities.
HE tier 4 (last resort)
We expect the majority of provision to be online, with buildings open only for essential workers and students who are required to attend because in-person teaching is essential. This should include the continuation of essential research.
In the event of a possible outbreak on site, you should refer to the relevant Education Action Card that relates to managing possible outbreaks in education settings.
Principles for higher education provision
Although some buildings and parts of campuses have physically closed in response to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), the provision of HE has continued and should continue. We recognise that you have done, and continue to do, a great deal of work to reopen your buildings and campuses as safely as possible.
As HE providers are autonomous institutions, you should identify and put in place appropriate plans, in line with this guidance and any other relevant government guidance, based on your individual circumstances. We encourage all providers to share best practice so that there is a consistent approach to reopening that puts the health and safety of all students and staff at its heart and also recognises the importance of providing access to high-quality provision.
We expect you to give particular consideration to your legal responsibilities when taking steps to reopen, including under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Equality Act 2010, and to comply with those obligations.
Minimising coronavirus (COVID-19) risks
As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety, including from the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19). You should complete a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace and identify control measures to manage that risk. Employers have a duty to consult their employees on health and safety matters. You should continually check, revise and update your risk assessments, especially when there is new advice and guidance.
Reopening buildings and campuses
In welcoming more students back onto campus, you should follow the guidance on students returning to, and starting, higher education in spring term 2021 as well as public health guidance on staying safe outside one’s home and in public spaces. The public health guidance is to reduce social contact, maintain social distance, adopt good hand and respiratory hygiene measures, and self-isolate and get tested if you have symptoms. Current evidence suggests that these measures continue to be the right measures to take, even taking into account new variants.
It is your responsibility as HE providers to assess the risk of opening buildings and to implement suitable precautions. The guidance on working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) provides examples relevant to the HE sector.
Social distancing on campus
You should consider how to reduce social contact and maintain social distance in university settings. This means keeping people 2 metres apart from those they do not live with, where possible. Where 2 metres is not viable, you can reduce the distance down to a minimum of 1 metre but only if appropriate mitigation is in place. You should set out the mitigations in response to your risk assessment.
To determine what level of attendance is appropriate in HE settings and during open days, outreach activities, and the assessment of prospective students on campus, you should conduct risk assessments to understand:
- the number of students and staff likely to be within a learning space and how they can be accommodated as safely as possible
- the availability of staff, including contingency plans if individuals are self-isolating
- supporting services required in increasing the number of individuals on-site (for example, catering) and how they can be provided as safely as possible
- what measures, in addition to those that have already been put in place during the pandemic, need to be in place to accommodate additional numbers (including additional cleaning of spaces and equipment following use)
Segmentation (such as the creation of small, sub-networks of students and staff) is one possible measure to make it easier to identify and limit those who need to take action in the event of a case or outbreak.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has advised that the benefits of segmentation could be:
- reduction in the risk of transmission (smaller number of people to infect)
- easier to control (smaller number of known contacts)
- less disruptive (small number of people to quarantine or test)
Effective segmentation could reduce the potential size of outbreaks. Segmentation of student or staff populations (for example, by course, year group, accommodation, site and so on, and in teaching and accommodation situations) would support easier detection of linked cases and, if necessary, enable more targeted closure or quarantine. Use of segments may also mean that certain classes or student households could be quarantined instead of wider groups, minimising wider disruption.
However, SAGE recognises that there is no one model of segmentation that would apply equally across all providers. The SAGE report on principles for managing the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) has further examples.
Where social distancing is difficult to maintain or good ventilation is difficult to provide, including in workshops, laboratories, offices, libraries, teaching rooms and lecture halls, we recommend that providers should adopt the use of face coverings as part of their wider COVID-secure measures, in addition to hand hygiene facilities and reduced access. This does not apply in situations where wearing a face covering would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity. Face coverings do not need to be worn when outdoors on the premises. More information can be found in the face coverings guidance.
Transparent face coverings, which may assist communication with someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate, can also be worn. There is currently very limited evidence regarding the effectiveness or safety of transparent face coverings, but they may be effective in reducing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Those who rely on visual signals for communication, or communicate with or provide support to such individuals, are currently exempt from any requirement to wear face coverings.
Face visors or shields should not be worn as an alternative to face coverings. They may protect against droplet spread in specific circumstances but are unlikely to be effective in reducing aerosol transmission when used without an additional face covering. They should only be used after carrying out a risk assessment for the specific situation and should always be cleaned appropriately.
Some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings. This applies to those who:
- cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical impairment or disability, illness or mental health difficulties
- speak to or provide help to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate
The same exemptions will apply in education settings and you should be sensitive to those needs, noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings and that the reasons for this may not be visible to others.
Safe wearing and removal of face coverings
You should have a process for when face coverings are worn on your premises and how they should be removed. You should communicate this process clearly to students, staff and visitors. Safe wearing of face coverings requires the:
- cleaning of hands before and after touching – including to remove or put them on
- safe storage of them in individual, sealable plastic bags between use
Where a face covering becomes damp, it should not be worn, and the face covering should be replaced carefully. Staff and students may consider bringing a spare face covering to wear if their face covering becomes damp during the day.
To minimise the risk of transmission you should introduce enhanced cleaning measures, including more frequent cleaning of rooms and shared areas that are used by different groups, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces, using standard cleaning products such as detergents. See guidance on the cleaning of non-healthcare settings.
Keeping occupied spaces well ventilated
Good ventilation reduces the concentration of the virus in the air, which reduces the risk from airborne transmission. This happens when people breathe in small particles (aerosols) in the air after someone with the virus has occupied an enclosed area.
When your setting is in operation, it is important to ensure it is well ventilated and a comfortable teaching environment is maintained.
These can be achieved by a variety of measures.
Mechanical ventilation systems
These should be adjusted to increase the ventilation rate wherever possible and checked to confirm that normal operation meets current guidance and that only fresh outside air is circulated. If possible, systems should be adjusted to full fresh air or, if not, then systems should be operated as normal, as long as they are within a single room and supplemented by an outdoor air supply.
- opening windows (in cooler weather windows should be opened just enough to provide constant background ventilation, and opened more fully during breaks to purge the air in the space)
- opening internal doors can also assist with creating a throughput of air
- opening external doors (as long as they are not fire doors and where safe to do so)
Find out more from the Health and Safety Executive guidance on air conditioning and ventilation during the coronavirus outbreak and CIBSE coronavirus (COVID-19) advice.
To balance the need for increased ventilation while maintaining a comfortable temperature, consider:
- opening high-level windows in colder weather in preference to low level to reduce draughts
- increasing the ventilation while spaces are unoccupied
- rearranging furniture where possible to avoid direct draughts
Heating should be used as necessary to ensure comfort levels are maintained, particularly in occupied spaces.
Additional protective measures
You should identify and implement the complete range of protective measures required to comply with government guidance for safe workplaces, based on an assessment of the risks and requirements of each environment.
This should include (but is not limited to):
- enhanced cleaning measures, especially for frequently used areas, surfaces, touchpoints and washrooms
- increased availability of handwashing and hand sanitisation facilities where handwashing facilities are less readily available
- reducing congestion (such as at the start and end of the day), including through considering measures such as changes to timetables to stagger arrival or departure times or reduce attendance on site
- utilising outdoor space
- managing entrance to, exit from and movement around buildings, as well as signage with such measures as one way entrances, exits and staircases - avoid the use of lifts where possible
Some HE courses, such as vocational training, healthcare related courses, and the performing arts, may pose particular risks of aerosol, droplet and surface transmission and may warrant increased consideration, for example, face coverings, ventilation or cleaning in accordance with guidance issued for the relevant professional working arrangements.
Any additional costs would be funded from existing budgets.
Staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable
Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) staff are advised not to attend the workplace whilst they are advised to shield. Staff who are CEV will previously have received a letter from the NHS or their GP telling them this (no new letter is required), and there is guidance for everyone in this group. It provides advice on what additional measures individuals in this group can take.
Employers should talk to their staff about how they will be supported, including to work from home.
You should continue to pay CEV staff on their usual terms.
Those living with someone who is CEV can still attend work where home-working is not possible and should ensure they maintain good prevention practice in the workplace and home settings.
The shielding guidance is reviewed regularly. CEV individuals will be informed in advance of any change to the end date of the guidance.
CEV individuals (over 18) have been prioritised for vaccination in phase 1 before the general population and in line with the priority ordering set by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Current Department of Health and Social Care guidance, informed by Public Health England, currently advises that CEV individuals should continue to shield even after they have been vaccinated.
Pregnant staff are advised to follow the specific guidance for pregnant employees because pregnant women are considered clinically vulnerable (CV). In some cases, pregnant women may also have other health conditions that mean they are considered CEV, where the advice for clinically extremely vulnerable staff will apply. COVID-19 vaccination: a guide for women of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding contains vaccination advice.
Your workplace risk assessment should already consider any risks to female employees of childbearing age and, in particular, risks to new and expectant mothers. If you are notified that an employee is pregnant, breastfeeding, or has given birth within the last 6 months, you should check the workplace risk assessment to see if any new risks have arisen. An assessment may help identify any additional action that needs to be taken to mitigate risks.
Any risks identified at that point, or later during the pregnancy, in the first 6 months after birth, or while the employee is still breastfeeding, must be included and managed as part of the general workplace risk assessment. You must take appropriate sensible action to reduce, remove or control the risks.
As part of your risk assessment, you should consider whether adapting duties and/or facilitating home working may be appropriate to mitigate risks.
You should be aware that pregnant women from 28 weeks’ gestation, or with underlying health conditions at any point of gestation, may be at greater risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus (COVID-19). This is also the case for pregnant women with underlying health conditions that place them at greater risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus (COVID-19).
Find out more about coronavirus (COVID-19) and pregnancy from the Royal College of Gynaecologists.
Staff who may otherwise be at increased risk from coronavirus (COVID-19)
Current evidence shows that a range of factors mean that some people may be at comparatively increased risk from coronavirus (COVID-19). Those at particularly high risk from a range of underlying health conditions should now have been included in the CEV group and will be receiving a letter to confirm this.
For others who feel they may be at increased risk, where it is not possible to work from home, these staff can attend the workplace as long as the principles for higher education provision set out in this guidance are in place. You should continue with an equitable approach to risk management for your workforce, recognising that staff may have a variety of baseline risks. Work continues to build our understanding of what these baseline factors are and the increased risks they pose.
Find out more on who is at higher risk from coronavirus (COVID-19). Staff who live with those who may have comparatively increased risk from coronavirus (COVID-19) can attend the workplace where it is not possible to work from home.
Employers’ health and safety obligations
Employers have a legal obligation to protect their employees, and others, including children, from harm. Employers should continue to assess and update health and safety risks in the usual way, especially in the light of any changing circumstances.
Following the principles for higher education provision will help you:
- mitigate the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19) to pupils and staff
- meet your legal duties to protect employees and others from harm
The Health and Safety Executive have guidance on first aid during coronavirus (COVID-19) which:
- supports local risk assessments
- provides guidance for first aiders
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), there are legal limits on the number of people that someone can spend time with, in a group at any one time.
These limits do not apply to:
- gatherings for educational or work purposes when reasonably necessary
- meetings of a single household group
- meeting your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
Use the stay at home guidance to find out more.
The government has introduced a new £800 fine for those attending house parties, including in halls of residence, which will double for each repeat offence to a maximum level of £6,400. These fines will apply to those who attend illegal gatherings of more than 15 people from outside their household. Providers should ensure that students are aware of their designated ‘household’, particularly if they live within large scale student accommodation.
New and returning students travelling from overseas
Guidance is available for new and returning students travelling from overseas in students returning to, and starting, higher education in spring term 2021.
Travel guidance for Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps exchanges
UK-based students on Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps can continue activities that were agreed ahead of the end of the transition period. You should ensure that those taking part in these programmes are aware of the guidance for UK students in the EU continuing their studies.
- be flexible
- be ready to make quick changes to projects and travel, and consider delaying plans and amending start and end dates if feasible
- follow the relevant Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice for the destination country and highlight this to participants
- be aware of the rapidly changing situation on a country by country basis
- use any funding to the best of your ability, while ensuring participants remain as safe as possible
- explore alternative options for travel and study, whether blended or fully virtual
FCDO guidance on travel from the UK is available.
The Association of British Insurers has produced information on travel insurance implications following the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. If you have any further questions about your cover, contact your travel insurance provider.
Information is available for educational settings in:
Guidance is also available for:
- individuals affected by travel restrictions
- EU students studying in the UK
- UK students continuing their studies in the EU
Travel and transport for students arriving from within the UK
Guidance for students arriving at university from within the UK is available.
Students travelling to university should follow the coronavirus (COVID-19) safer travel guidance for passengers.
Where students have contracted coronavirus (COVID-19) while in student accommodation, rooms and other facilities will need to be cleaned, following guidance on cleaning non-healthcare settings. Accommodation that has been vacant for over 72 hours will need standard, but thorough, household cleaning.
Forming new households
There is no prohibition on moving house where necessary, and anyone in England who wishes to move house can do so. This includes forming new households and moving into shared student accommodation and houses in multiple occupation (HMO). Guidance for landlords and tenants on renting and coronavirus (COVID-19) is available.
However, repeat or frequent temporary changes in household unit will increase the risk of disease transmission and staying within the same household unit will facilitate test and trace activities in the event of coronavirus (COVID-19). Those forming new households should take account of the guidance on meeting people from outside your household for advice on household interactions.
Everyone involved in the moving process must follow the latest guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing) to minimise the spread of the virus. Letting agents, HE providers and accommodation providers should also consider how best to conduct tenancy check-ins for new tenancies agreed while broader measures remain in place, taking care to follow government advice on social distancing.
Within student accommodation, you should seek to identify ‘households’, within which routine contact can be managed safely. These households will also form the units by which you will manage any response to a suspected or confirmed positive case. Your approach to deciding what constitutes a household will depend on the physical layout of the accommodation, taking into account who shares a kitchen or bathroom. A household in halls of residence is normally considered to be those students living in the same flat, or on the same floor, who share a kitchen or bathroom, rather than an entire block. Accommodation providers should make clear which kitchen(s) or bathroom(s) are intended for each household’s use.
If a household within student accommodation is not obvious, providers may need to identify students as belonging to households (these households may be greater than 6 people). There should be an easily accessible record of who is in each of these provider-defined households, and students should understand what constitutes their household for the purposes of guidance on interactions within and between households.
Students living in halls of residence, or houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), who develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) should self-isolate in their current accommodation. Students should discuss this with their HE provider, and with the manager of their halls if they are privately owned, or the landlord of their HMO.
If a resident has coronavirus symptoms, all residents in that household must isolate for 10 days, following guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection.
Compliance with guidance
You are responsible for ensuring that you, as an institution, as well as staff and students, are aware of the measures and guidance in place, and take action to promote the importance of complying with these.
This could include:
- regular communication to staff and students
- signs and posters to reiterate the rules
- a clear statement of expectations of student behaviour, for example, a behaviour agreement
You should consider incentives for compliance, and disincentives for non-compliance including, in serious cases, the use of disciplinary measures.
Communications about compliance
You should have communications strategies for students and staff, which will include principles such as:
- do not assume that everyone understands the official guidelines
- ensure the rationale for behaviours and protective measures is understood
- make COVID-secure behaviours the norm
- encourage an atmosphere within your institution that supports following COVID-secure behaviours
- involve staff and students when creating communications
- maintain consistent messaging and guidance
- consider the range of cultural backgrounds when developing communications and plans
Teaching and learning environments
For many HE courses, online teaching and learning works effectively and has a high degree of learner engagement (while it will also benefit those who are not able to physically attend). You should identify the appropriate mix of online and face-to-face content for each subject, reflecting what will maximise learning, as well as supporting staff or students who cannot attend campus, and enabling the provider as a whole to minimise transmission risk.
Guidance on working safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is relevant to the HE estate. This guidance points out that the Health and Safety Executive may take action to improve control of workplace risks if needed, for example through the issue of enforcement notices to help secure improvements.
Find information about working safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the guidance on laboratories and research facilities. The same considerations should be applied to laboratory science teaching as well.
We expect university libraries to remain open to provide library services, including study places in a COVID-secure way.
You should follow the NHS Test and Trace guidance, which applies to university libraries as well as public libraries.
Libraries Connected has drawn up guidance for public libraries to support reopening which may also be relevant for university libraries.
Sports training and teaching
Some providers will have programmes designed for ‘elite’ athletes (for example, athletes on elite development pathways). In such cases, the guidance on returning to training for elite sport will be relevant.
In addition, many providers will have their own gym and leisure facilities and the guidance for providers of grassroots sport and gym or leisure facilities may be relevant.
Activities can be undertaken in line with guidance on working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) in the performing arts which applies to both professionals and non-professionals.
Performing arts courses, in normal circumstances, may involve a considerable amount of practical face-to-face teaching and assessment. Some providers have found alternative methods during the outbreak. You should consider new ways of delivering in-person teaching and assessment that adhere to guidelines on social distancing so that all students can receive a high-quality academic experience in a way that protects both students and staff.
If face-to-face teaching or group sessions are required, try to maintain social distancing (2 metres, or 1 metre where this is not possible, provided steps are taken to otherwise mitigate the potential for transmission).
Performing arts teaching sessions
Tutors and staff should design sessions and rehearsals to avoid situations where students are unable to socially distance and, if this is not possible, reduce any time that students are not able to maintain social distancing.
Smaller teaching group sizes should be used where it is not possible to maintain social distancing. For example, you might consider reducing the sizes of casts in drama, the size of orchestras, or the number of students involved in movement sessions. Where this is not possible, you should take mitigating actions to reduce the risk of transmission between staff and students, such as holding the session in a larger and well-ventilated room.
Where social distancing cannot be adhered to, consider using technology to reduce interactions. This could be for one-to-one tutorials, rehearsals and practice and, if possible, for assignments. You might consider using booths, barriers or screens between individuals who are not part of a teaching group, between teaching groups and others, and between performers and any staff or students not participating at that moment.
You should make sure that no one is taking part in in-person sessions if they have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or when advised to self-isolate.
Singing and playing wind and brass instruments
Students and staff can engage in singing and playing wind and brass instruments in line with this guidance and working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) in the performing arts but routine (2 metres) social distancing should be maintained.
Managing social and informal interactions for performing arts students
You should consider students’ desire to interact socially and creatively with other students as part of their educational experience. If possible, designate specific areas (‘creative spaces’) for students to socially and creatively interact beyond the usual teaching environment. These areas could include markings to allow for social distancing or the use of screens.
You should provide students with advice as to where these sorts of interactions would be appropriate, and how to do them as safely as possible.
If tutors are not present, students should take responsibility for these sessions, and for protecting themselves and others. This might include social distancing or cleaning instruments before use.
Performing arts equipment
Equipment, including instruments and props, is integral to many performing arts courses. Measures should be taken for handling equipment.
- students and staff should avoid sharing equipment if possible
- if the equipment has to be shared, you should ensure there is increased handwashing before and after handling equipment
- ensuring regular and meticulous cleaning of all equipment, including shared instruments, desks, sound and lighting equipment, mics and battery packs
- handling of paperwork, including music scores, scripts and learning materials
Audiences for performing arts
Refer to the working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) in the performing arts guidance for advice about audiences.
Where it is essential to have an audience, for assessment and teaching purposes, they should be seated in accordance with social distancing. Staff and other students can watch rehearsals and performances, but they should avoid cheering or shouting. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission, particularly from aerosol and droplet transmission. You might consider mitigating actions, such as the use of screens to protect audience members where necessary or the use of face coverings.
Students should be prepared for the difficulties of performing without an audience, or with a reduced audience, especially if the production is particularly interactive.
Providers should set a clear expectation that all students should access coronavirus (COVID-19) testing. Find guidance on testing arrangements for the spring term in students returning to, and stating, higher education in the spring term 2021.
Staff and student wellbeing
You have a duty of care to students including the provision of pastoral support, and taking steps to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of students. This includes the responsibility to support students with mental health issues. You should determine what welfare and counselling services are needed for students.
Some students and staff will have additional mental health needs which cannot be met within the HE setting. HE providers should work in partnership with local NHS and care services to address any additional needs arising from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
We have worked with the Office for Students to clarify that you are able to use existing funds, worth around £256 million, for the academic year 2020 to 2021, towards hardship support. We are also making available an additional £50 million of hardship funding this financial year, taking the total funding made available for student hardship to £70 million this financial year. You will have flexibility in how they distribute the funding to students, in a way that will best prioritise those in greatest need. Support might include help for students facing additional costs arising from having to maintain accommodation in more than one location. The funding can be distributed to a wide population of students, including postgraduates (whether taught or research) and international students. We will continue to monitor the situation to look at what impact this funding is having.
The Student Space platform is designed to work alongside existing mental health services offered by providers.
The guidance on safer workplaces acknowledges the responsibilities that employers have for their staff. The agreement between trade unions working in HE and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, published as appendix A to Universities UK’s principles and considerations for emerging from lockdown, will help ensure campuses are as safe as possible and protect the health and wellbeing of staff, students and visitors to campus.
Find out more about mental health and wellbeing from guidance for the public on mental health and wellbeing.
Emergency treatment, for example, the provision of first aid, should be prioritised and given promptly in the event of an emergency. This means that people do not have to stay 2 metres apart if emergency assistance is required. People involved in the provision of the assistance of others should pay particular attention to hygiene measures immediately afterwards, including washing hands.